The mid-19th century is a time of rapid growth and transformation for New York City, as it experiences a multitude of significant events that shape its evolution. The city’s population reaches over 515,000 in 1850, and the completion of the New York and Erie Railroad in the same year connects New York City to the Great Lakes region. In 1852, the city builds the Crystal Palace exhibition hall in Bryant Park, which attracts visitors from all over the world. Central Park is proposed and construction begins in 1853, becoming the first public park in the United States that is entirely landscaped. The park represents a significant shift towards public space, greenery, and nature in the city’s urban landscape.
New technologies, such as the horse-drawn omnibuses and the telegraph, have a significant impact on the city. The first horse-drawn omnibuses are introduced to the city in 1853, revolutionizing transportation and making it more accessible for people to travel around the city. The telegraph also has a major impact, with the first public telegraph office in the United States opening in New York City in 1853. The telegraph accelerates communication and has profound implications for business and finance, reinforcing New York’s status as a global economic center.
In addition to infrastructure and technological advancements, New York City experiences cultural and societal changes during this time period. The Astor Place Riot in 1850 is a violent clash between supporters of two rival actors that leaves 22 people dead and more than 100 injured, highlighting the growing divide between social classes in the city. The establishment of the Metropolitan Police Department in 1855 replaces the city’s previous system of night watchmen, bringing a new sense of order and safety to the city. Finally, the mid-19th century sees the founding of cultural institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, reflecting the city’s growing importance as a cultural and intellectual center.
An aerial perspective above Manhattan, showing the rapid change of the city's shore, skyline and developing landscape.
Artist's rendering of The South Street Seaport, the first pier in the area was occupied in 1625 by the Dutch West India Company.
New York's oldest public park (formerly, there was a turf present for playing lawn bowling) which is also surrounded by the oldest fence in City.
A photograph of Manhattan's City Hall. Taken by A.R. Waud in the winter of 1855.
Lithograph illustration of Chatham Square, named after William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham and Prime Minister of Great Britain before the American Revolution.
An illustrative engraving of the original Market on 6th Avenue.
Painting of the Croton Reservoir at 42nd Street. Completed in 1842, it was the source of the city's drinking water until its demolition in the 1890s.
A group gathered around the newly constructed monument of George Washington in Union Square, dedicated in 1856 the the oldest sculpture in any NYC Park.
Photograph of Broadway, looking north towards A.T. Stewart's Building and Grace Church.
Watercolor Illustration of Broadway and Vesey Street Looking South.
Photograph of an open air clothing market beneath the train tracks in New York City. Taken by A.R.Waud in 1850
The East side of Broadway and Broome Street looking North, capturing the hum and activity of downtown Manhattan during a cold winter.
View of a residential neighborhood along New York's Fifth Avenue. Rows of single-family brownstones with grand front stoops line the wide corridor.
A view of the St. Germain Hotel on the North East Corner of 5th Avenue between 22nd and 23rd Streets (future site of The Flatiron Building).
A view overlooking the Palisades, Hudson and Yonkers dockyard with railroad tracks which ran parallel to the Hudson River. Taken by Silas A. Holmes in 1855.
1850: The population of New York City has grown to 515,547, representing a significant increase compared to the 60,515 inhabitants in 1800. This remarkable growth can be attributed to several factors, including industrialization, immigration, and urbanization. The urbanization of New York City during this period also plays a role in its population increase. As the city expands and its infrastructure improves, more people are drawn to the area for its economic opportunities, cultural offerings, and social connections. The development of new neighborhoods, improved transportation networks, and the construction of iconic landmarks like Central Park all contribute to making New York City an attractive destination for both domestic migrants and new immigrants.
1850: The New York and Erie Railroad is completed, connecting New York City to the Great Lakes region. This significant transportation development is the result of the efforts of a group of ambitious entrepreneurs and engineers, including Daniel Drew, James Fisk, and John B. Jervis. The railroad transformed trade, travel, and communication between the East Coast and the Midwest, fostering economic growth and regional interconnectivity. The New York and Erie Railroad is one of the longest railroads in the United States at the time, covering more than 440 miles between the Hudson River at Piermont, New York, near the New Jersey border, and Lake Erie at Dunkirk, New York. The railroad contributes to the social and cultural integration of the United States by connecting the East Coast to the Midwest, enabling the exchange of ideas, traditions, and innovations between these distinct regions, fostering a greater sense of national unity and shared identity.
1851: The New York Times, one of the most influential and respected newspapers in the United States, is founded on September 18. Originally called the New-York Daily Times, the paper was established by journalist and politician Henry Jarvis Raymond and former banker George Jones. The duo had aimed to create a newspaper that would provide readers with an objective and balanced source of news, in contrast to the sensationalist and politically biased journalism that was prevalent during that era. Today, The New York Times remains a powerful force in the world of journalism, known for its rigorous reporting standards, insightful analysis, and commitment to informing the public. The paper's founding in 1851 marked the beginning of a journalistic institution that would come to shape the way news is reported, consumed, and understood in the United States and around the world.
1851: A group of wealthy yachtsmen come together to promote and encourage yacht racing, establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the sailing world. Their efforts lead to the creation of a prestigious organization that becomes one of the oldest and most respected yacht clubs in the world: the New York Yacht Club. The club's founders, who included John Cox Stevens and Cornelius Vanderbilt, were passionate about yachting and determined to create a community that would foster the sport's growth. They pooled their resources and purchased a schooner named America, which they entered into the Royal Yacht Squadron's annual race around the Isle of Wight in 1851. To everyone's surprise, America won the race, defeating 15 British yachts in the process. The victory was a major triumph for the fledgling New York Yacht Club, and it cemented the organization's reputation as a force to be reckoned with in the sailing world. Today, the New York Yacht Club continues to be a prominent institution in the sailing world, with a membership that includes some of the sport's most accomplished sailors.
1852: A grand exhibition hall made of cast iron and glass is constructed in Bryant Park to showcase the technological and industrial achievements of nations from around the world. Known as the Crystal Palace, it becomes a major attraction that draws millions of visitors during its run. The Crystal Palace was designed by the architect Joseph Paxton, who had gained fame for his innovative designs for greenhouses. The building was made almost entirely of glass and cast iron, and it was one of the largest structures of its kind ever built. It housed the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, which showcased the latest technological and industrial developments from countries around the world. The Crystal Palace was a massive success, drawing millions of visitors during its run. It served as a symbol of progress and innovation, and it inspired the construction of similar exhibition halls in cities around the world. Unfortunately, the original building was destroyed by a fire in 1858, but its legacy lives on in the many imitations and adaptations that followed.
1852: The New York City Board of Education is established, marking a significant step forward in providing education to all of the city's children. The board is created through the efforts of education reformers such as Horace Mann, who had previously served as Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of Education. Mann believed that education was a critical component of a democratic society, and he advocated for free and universal public education. The New York City Board of Education is responsible for overseeing the city's public schools and shaping its systems of education. Before the establishment of the board, education in New York City was largely unregulated and uneven. Many children received little or no schooling, and schools were often poorly run and underfunded. The board changed all that, bringing a level of organization and oversight to the city's public schools that had been sorely lacking. Today, the New York City Board of Education is known as the New York City Department of Education, and it oversees the largest public school system in the United States. The department's mission is to provide all students with a high-quality education that prepares them for college, careers, and citizenship.
1853: The introduction of horse-drawn omnibuses to the city provides a more comfortable and efficient way to travel around New York. The omnibuses are the result of the efforts of entrepreneurs and engineers such as Abraham Brower and John L. Beard, who recognized the need for a more reliable and efficient mode of public transportation in the city. These large, multi-passenger vehicles quickly become popular with commuters and play a key role in the development of public transportation in the city. Today, they have been replaced by modern buses. The omnibuses were a significant improvement over the previous modes of transportation, which were largely restricted to walking or horse-drawn carriages. They were larger and more comfortable than the horse-drawn carriages, and they could carry more passengers. They also ran on a regular schedule, which made them more reliable than the horse-drawn carriages.
1853: Architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux propose the creation of NYC's Central Park. The park is designed to provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of the City. Olmsted and Vaux's vision for the park is shaped by their belief in the power of nature to improve public health and well-being. They carefully design the landscapes, walking paths, and recreational areas to create a harmonious environment as a respite for residents and a tourist destination. The land was originally a rocky and swampy area that was largely uninhabitable, known as Seneca Village - a predominantly African American community that had been settled in the 1820s. Construction of the park begins soon after the forced eviction of the village residents, and it opens to the public in 1858. Central Park is a groundbreaking project in urban planning, and it quickly becomes a beloved public space, providing a natural refuge in the heart of the city.
1853: The New York City Fire Department establishes a paid fire department. Before this period, firefighting in New York City is largely left to volunteer companies. These companies are often uncoordinated and untrained, which leads to a number of disastrous fires. The establishment of a paid fire department is largely thanks to the efforts of men such as Daniel D. Conover, who recognized the need for a more professional firefighting force. The establishment of a paid fire department helps to professionalize firefighting and to reduce the number of fires in the city. The department is able to acquire better equipment, including steam-powered fire engines, and to train its members to handle emergencies more effectively. Today, the New York City Fire Department is the largest municipal fire department in the United States and one of the busiest in the world. The department's firefighters are known for their bravery and dedication to keeping the people of New York City safe.
1853: The first public telegraph office in the United States opens in New York City. The telegraph revolutionizes communication by allowing messages to be transmitted quickly over long distances. The opening of the first public telegraph office in New York City in 1853 is largely thanks to the efforts of Samuel Morse, who had developed the telegraph system several years earlier. The telegraph makes it possible for anyone to send a message across the country in a matter of hours, transforming the way people communicate and paving the way for future developments in communication technology. Morse's invention also has significant impacts on commerce, enabling businesses to conduct transactions and share information more quickly and efficiently. Today, New York City remains a hub of communication technology, with many of the world's leading companies in the field headquartered in the city. The telegraph system remains a significant milestone in the history of communication, and Samuel Morse's contributions to the field are still celebrated today.
1853: The first World's Fair in the United States is held in New York City. The fair, officially known as the Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, is largely thanks to the efforts of Henry Carey Baird, who had been inspired by the success of the 1851 Great Exhibition in London. The fair takes place in the Crystal Palace, which was constructed the previous year, and showcases the latest technological and industrial developments from countries around the world. The fair draws millions of visitors during its run and serves as a showcase of progress and innovation, inspiring future fairs and exhibitions in cities around the world. It highlights the United States' growing economic and industrial power, as well as its ability to bring people and ideas together from around the globe. Today, the legacy of the first World's Fair can be seen in the many international exhibitions and expositions that continue to be held in cities around the world. Baird's contributions to the fair's success are still celebrated today.
1854: The New York State Legislature authorizes the construction of the Croton Aqueduct, which brings fresh water to the city. In 1854, the New York State Legislature authorizes the construction of the Croton Aqueduct, a massive engineering project that will bring fresh water to New York City. The project is designed by John B. Jervis, a renowned civil engineer who had previously designed the Delaware and Hudson Canal. The aqueduct is a major achievement in engineering and public health, consisting of over 40 miles of underground tunnels, pipes, and aqueducts that bring fresh water from the Croton River in Westchester County to the city. The project is completed in 1842 and is a critical component of the city's infrastructure. Today, the Croton Aqueduct continues to provide fresh water to the city and its suburbs, ensuring the health and well-being of millions of people.
1854: The Republican Party holds its first national convention in New York City to confront slavery. In 1854, the Republican Party holds its first national convention in New York City, where it is founded as a political party committed to ending slavery and promoting individual liberty. The convention is attended by more than 1,000 delegates from across the country, including prominent abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass. The founders of the Republican Party believe that slavery is a moral evil and a threat to the American experiment in self-government. The party's platform includes support for free soil, free labor, and free men, and it quickly gains support in the North. Over the years, the Republican Party becomes one of the major political parties in the United States, with a commitment to conservative values and a focus on limited government, individual freedom, and economic opportunity.
1855: The Metropolitan Police Department is established, replacing the city's previous system of night watchmen. In 1855, the Metropolitan Police Department is established in New York City, replacing the previous system of night watchmen. The department is modeled after the London Metropolitan Police and is the first professional police department in the United States. The founders of the department, including George W. Matsell and Frederick A. Tallmadge, believe that a professional police force is essential to maintaining law and order in the city. The establishment of the Metropolitan Police Department helps to reduce crime and to improve public safety in the city. Today, the New York City Police Department is one of the largest and most complex police organizations in the world, with a mandate to protect and serve the people of New York City.
1855: The New York Times moves into its new headquarters in Times Square. In 1855, The New York Times, which was founded by Henry Jarvis Raymond and George Jones, moves into its new headquarters in Times Square. The building, which is located at 42nd Street and Broadway, is designed by the famous architect Renzo Piano and features a distinctive glass and steel facade. The move to Times Square marks a new chapter in the newspaper's history, as it positions itself at the center of New York City's bustling media and entertainment district. Over the years, The New York Times becomes known for its in-depth reporting, investigative journalism, and incisive commentary on current events. Today, The New York Times remains one of the most influential and respected newspapers in the world, with a reputation for quality journalism and a commitment to the truth.
1856: The first Macy's department store opens in New York City. In 1856, R.H. Macy opens his first department store in New York City. The store is an immediate success, thanks to Macy's innovative merchandising strategies and commitment to customer service. By 1877, Macy's has expanded to 11 stores and becomes one of the largest retailers in the United States. Over the years, the store becomes known for its iconic red star logo and its annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, which has become a beloved tradition in New York City and beyond. Today, Macy's is still one of the most recognizable and beloved retailers in the world, with stores in cities across the globe and a reputation for quality and innovation in the retail industry.
1856: the New York City Commission on Immigration is established, marking a significant moment in the city's history. The commission is created to manage the influx of immigrants into New York City and to provide services and assistance to hundreds of thousands of new arrivals each year. Under the leadership of the commission, a number of initiatives were established to support new immigrants. These included the creation of a hospital for immigrants, which provided medical care and treatment to those who were sick or injured upon arrival in the city. The commission also established a network of aid societies, which provided assistance with housing, employment, and other basic needs. Today, New York City remains a hub of immigration, with people from all over the world making their homes in the city. The legacy of the commission and its efforts to support and welcome new immigrants continue to be felt in the city to this day.
1857: The Panic of 1857 is shaking the United States and having a major impact on the economy of New York City. The financial crisis is caused by a combination of factors, including the overexpansion of the railroad industry, a decline in agricultural prices, and the failure of several large banks. The crisis is leading to widespread unemployment, bank failures, and a drop in commodity prices. James Buchanan, who has just assumed the presidency earlier that year, is being criticized for his handling of the crisis. Some are arguing that his administration is doing too little to address the root causes of the downturn. Despite efforts to stabilize the financial system and restore confidence in the markets, the crisis is having a lasting impact on the city's economy. The Panic of 1857 is a stark reminder of the volatility of the economy and the need for sound financial policies to ensure stability and prosperity.
1857: The New York City Police Department establishes the first detective division in the country to combat a growing crimewave in the city, including gangs such as the Dead Rabbits and the Bowery Boys. One of the most notorious criminal organizations during this time is the Five Points Gang, which controls much of the criminal activity in the Five Points neighborhood of lower Manhattan. One of the most famous detectives of the time is Thomas F. Byrnes, who rose to fame for his role in capturing notorious criminal Adam Worth, who was known as the "Napoleon of Crime." Worth was a master thief who had pulled off several high-profile heists in Europe and the United States. Byrnes had been tracking him for years and finally caught him in Belgium, where he was living under a false identity. The case made Byrnes a national hero and helped to solidify his reputation as one of the most effective law enforcement officials of his time. The NYPD goes on to become a template for policing other cities.
1858: The establishment of the New York City Health Department in 1858 is led by a group of physicians, public health advocates, and civic leaders, including Dr. Stephen Smith, Dr. John Griscom, and Dr. John Swinburne. They are among the first to recognize the need for a coordinated effort to improve public health in New York City, which is plagued by outbreaks of disease and poor sanitation. The new department is tasked with investigating and controlling communicable diseases, inspecting and regulating public spaces, and promoting hygiene and cleanliness in the city. Their efforts help to reduce the incidence of disease and to improve the overall health of the population. Today, the New York City Health Department continues to play a vital role in protecting and promoting public health in the city, responding to emerging health threats and advocating for policies that support the well-being of all New Yorkers.
1859: The first commercial oil well in the United States is drilled near Titusville, Pennsylvania, by Edwin Drake. The discovery of these reserves has a profound impact on the economy of the United States, especailly New York City, which becomes a hub of the oil industry. One of the most significant figures of this era is John D. Rockefeller, who establishes Standard Oil in 1870. Rockefeller's business acumen and aggressive tactics enable him to dominate the oil industry, and Standard Oil becomes one of the largest and most powerful corporations in the world. The company's success has a major impact on New York City, where Rockefeller lives and works. He becomes one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the city, using his wealth to fund philanthropic causes and to shape the city's growth and development. Rockefeller's impact on New York City can be seen in many of the city's iconic landmarks, including Rockefeller Center and the Riverside Church.
1859: The first modern apartment building in the United States is built in New York City. The building, known as the Stuyvesant Apartments, is designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt and located on East 18th Street in Manhattan. It is built during a time of significant population growth. One of the most prominent developers of apartment buildings in New York City during this period is Gustavus Franklin and his company, the Metropolitan Real Estate Company. Another significant figure is James E. Ware, who popularized the "dumbbell" tenement design, a type of housing that features air shafts to provide ventilation and light to interior rooms. Over time, the development of modern apartment buildings in New York City will continue to have a significant impact on the city's social, economic, and cultural landscape. The new form of housing will lead to increased density and vertical growth in the city, and will shape the way people live, work, and interact with each other.
1859: The first section of the Brooklyn Bridge is completed. It is an engineering marvel, far ahead of its time. The bridge is designed by John Roebling, a German-born engineer who is a pioneer in the field of suspension bridges. Roebling is known for his meticulous attention to detail and his insistence on using only the best materials and construction techniques. The Brooklyn Bridge is over-engineered to a degree that would be unheard of today. Roebling designs the bridge to be six times stronger than it needs to be, and he uses high-quality materials such as steel wire and granite. The bridge is built to withstand extreme forces, including high winds, earthquakes, and even the impact of a ship collision. Over 14,000 miles of steel wire are used in the construction of the bridge's cables, which are anchored to massive stone towers on either side of the river. The towers themselves are made of limestone and granite, and each one stands over 270 feet tall. The total weight of the bridge will end up around 14,000 tons.
1859: The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art is founded in New York City, offering free education to all of its students, regardless of their background or financial means. The institution quickly becomes a hub of innovation and creativity, attracting some of the most talented students and faculty in the country. The institution is the vision of Peter Cooper, a self-made millionaire who started as an apprentice in a glue factory and went on to become a successful businessman and inventor. Cooper believes that education should be accessible to all, and he puts his vision into practice with the establishment of the Cooper Union. The Cooper Union is also notable for its innovative curriculum, which emphasizes hands-on learning and real-world experience. The institution is one of the first in the country to offer courses in engineering, architecture, and art, and it quickly becomes a leader in these fields.
Welcome to the History of New York City - A Unique Online Gallery of NYC's Origins, Curated and Digitally Restored by Fine Print New York.
We're opening our archives to present this Collection of Vintage Photos, Historical Images and Rare Lithographs. This Exclusive Series of High Quality Art Prints are only Available for Purchase Exclusively on this Site.
Joseph Gornail, printer/photographer and founder of Fine Print New York. Joseph grew up in SoHo, Manhattan and is part of a long lineage of NYC printers, learning the family trade from his grandfather. While working for Dolo Records/Stretch Armstrong in 1996, Joseph founded All City Marketing & Printing, and in 1999 Co-Founded the legendary street wear company "Orchard Street " with lifelong friends Benjamin Holloway and Greig Bennett. Fine Print NYC was established in 2004 with a Nike project being the launchpad for a commercial printing company that has not only survived, but thrived in the digital age.
Steven Garcia, designer/illustrator and creative director of Fine Print New York. Born and raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Steven attended Fashion Industries High School and F.I.T. before building a successful career at Saatchi & Saatchi for as a professional retoucher and storyboard artist in 1995. Steven started ShinyDesign in 1998 and partnered with Fine Print in 2004 as the exclusive design firm for the company. Steven has independently worked on major advertising campaigns for many brands over the years, such as Snapple, The Waldorf Astoria and Sony to name a few.
Together, Joseph & Steven are responsible for the curation and direction of the History101.nyc project, which has been under development since 2006. They have a long history of collaborating together, going back as far as 2001 when Joseph was gallery manager and Steven was a curator at The New York City Urban Experience, an art gallery & museum that was located at 85 South Street and owned by Mike Saes of the Nike Bridge Runners and True Yorkers.
We cover a great portion of the city's history, ranging from its earliest days as New Amsterdam to the late 1980s. Artists are currently working on photos from the 90s to present day,
Here's a current list of what is covered:
There are currently 714 photos, lithographs, illustrations and maps on this site. Each one has been digitally restored and cleaned up by hand, which makes this collection truly unique.
Digital licenses are available for educational institutions (schools, universities, non-profit organizations). Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss conditions for licensing.
NOTE: Any form of commercialization or redistribution of these images, either as tangible goods or third party licenses, is expressly forbidden.
History101.nyc is an ad-free and non-profit learning resource. We do not sell prints of these images. All operational costs are covered by Fine Print NYC
Absolutely! Feel free to send us an email with a preview of the image and we will let you know if it's a good fit for the archives.
We welcome any feedback that you may have. If it proves to be historically accurate the changes will be reflected on the site shortly after our correspondence.
We have collaborated with NYC's Municipal Archives, The Tenemant Museum, Bronx Historical Society and a number of prominent NYC photographers to produce a series of limited edition postcards which free of charge, but only available via street distribution, primarily in Manhattan.
Yes, we can repair, restore and cleanup your old family photos, slides and negatives. You can either send us the digital files or the original photos to be professionally scanned.
We can restore just about any level of damage or signs of aging, within reason. As long as most of the photo is intact we cn work with it. The one flaw we cannot fix is source material that is blurry. A poorly take photo can only be improved so much.
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History101.NYC is an ad-free learning resource available to the public at no charge.
This project is dedicated to exploring New York’s fascinating heritage through the restoration of vintage photographs and prints.